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Abdul Azzahir Azhar, CFA

Regional Head, Equity and Commodity Derivatives Group (ECDG)

Maybank Kim Eng (MKE)

Abdul Azzahir Azhar is the regional head of equity and commodity derivatives at Maybank Investment Bank/Maybank Kim Eng. He previously worked in Bank Negara Malaysia as a fixed-income portfolio manager.

He graduated with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering with a minor in technology and management from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He currently is a candidate for a master’s degree in analytics from Georgia Institute of Technology. He also holds a Capital Markets Services Representative’s License (CMSRL) for dealing in securities and derivatives.

“The CFA® Program provides me with the solid foundation in key areas like financial statement analysis, economics, financial valuation, financial modelling and these skills have been useful to me throughout my career.”

Abdul Azzahir Azhar, CFA


As an engineering graduate, who or what influenced you to work in finance and what attracted you to the profession? How would you describe your journey from a nonfinancial background to a financial field?

While attending university, I had taken several elective classes in finance, economics, and management. Before that I had only been exposed to the sciences and engineering, so that experience really helped to open up my eyes. I found the subject matter very interesting, and upon graduation, I decided to try my luck by applying for a job in finance.

Generally speaking, the analytical, problem-solving mindset of an engineer fits pretty well in finance. Being an engineer, you’re naturally pretty comfortable around numbers and mathematical models.


In your experience, how challenging was it to earn the CFA® charter?

It is no doubt challenging, but it is also doable if you’re able to carve out the hours needed to cover the material. The hardest thing about the exams is that the material is both broad and deep, and the only way to get through it all is by committing the time and effort.

I was fortunate that I did it early in my career. Being fresh out of university, it was a bit easier for me to slip back into study mode, and I had fewer obligations outside of work.


How did it feel when you obtained your CFA charter?

My first response was to feel a sense of achievement — after all, the journey to obtaining the CFA charter is not a short one — from the three levels of examinations spanning multiple years to the work experience requirement.

Right after that came a feeling of relief and excitement to have my lunch hours and weekends back!


How do your employer and clients recognize the CFA® designation?

The rigour and robustness of the program is generally well known to people in the financial sector. My previous and present employers recognize the commitment and effort needed to earn the CFA charter, as well as the skillsets that it equips you with. The professional learning requirements also ensure that CFA® charterholders constantly remain up to date with the latest developments. There’s a bit more variance when it comes to clients. Some clients, especially those that are not from the financial sector, are less familiar with the CFA® Program and designation.


Thinking About Your Next Career Step?

A CFA charter can help boost your finance credentials. The CFA Program is designed to equip you with the kind of expertise and real-world skills in investment analysis that will help you advance your career. Once you complete all three exam levels and demonstrate the required experience, you can apply to become a charterholder.

Take our assessment to learn whether becoming a CFA charterholder is right for you.

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How have you leveraged your network and knowledge from CFA Institute and CFA Society® membership for career growth?

The field of finance and investment management is constantly evolving. The resources provided by CFA Institute offer a great avenue for keeping up to date with the latest developments. CFA Institute provides great insights and thought leadership on the key new areas, such as ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investing and fintech.


What got you interested in investment banking?

I work in the relatively niche area of equity derivatives, so it isn’t quite your traditional form of investment banking. What I like most about my field is that although it is quite niche, equity derivatives are highly flexible and customizable. It can be structured for many different purposes, from hedging and financing to yield enhancement and investments.

For someone like me who enjoys problem-solving, it really allows you to come up with a wide range of solutions for clients. This has helped keep me engaged and excited over the years.


What are the most important skills needed to excel in this field?

Finance is constantly evolving, so the skills that are deemed as important today will likely be different 5–10 years from now. Nevertheless, there are certain foundational skills that if you have a good grasp on, it will likely continue to pay dividends in the years to come. Areas like accounting, economics, statistics, and mathematics are widely utilized across the many branches of finance.


What do you aspire next in your career path?

I don’t have a specific next step planned out. I’m generally open to explore new things. Right now, I’m quite interested in data analytics and statistical modelling, and have been integrating that into my work. This also ties in quite well with my background in engineering and programming. Given the opportunity, I would be keen to try a role that has a heavier slant to the tech or data side of finance.


Do you have any mentors or idols who motivated you to be where you are now?

My family has always been a driving force in my life ever since I was young. Growing up, my mother always pushed me to improve myself and has always been there to support me during crucial moments. My older sister has also always been my sounding board and someone who I can turn to for guidance and motivation.

Nowadays, I have my own family — my wife and two little girls — and they keep me motivated to continue to push forward.


Disclaimer: The content was written in July 2021 and the video was taken in April 2021. Information, views, opinions, and recommendations expressed belong to the interviewees thereof. They do not necessarily reflect the views of CFA Society Malaysia. In no event shall CFA Society Malaysia be liable for any damages resulting from their opinions.

Be inspired by CFA® charterholders and learn how theirachievements can guide your career path.


Be inspired by CFA® charterholders and learn how their achievements can guide your career path.